Edgars Rinkevics: Latvia must behave like and adult

During  foreign policy debates at Saeima, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity) emphasized that the financial sector turmoil witnessed in 2018 implies that if Latvia wants to be seen as a mature country, it must behave like and adult and not an adolescent and understand that nobody else will clean its house.

The whole world is a big tear, quoting writer and poet Janis Poruks, said the politician, stressing that world events will influence the situation in Latvia. The solution to the escalating problems can only be achieved through dialogue and diplomacy, the politician stressed.

Although some solutions have been achieved within the Normandy format, the situation in Ukraine has not changed dramatically. Nor can climate change be ignored, where the human factor is the key. Slogans are not enough to mitigate the devastating effects of human beings on nature – human action is needed, the politician said, and therefore the European Commission’s initiatives to achieve climate neutrality should be supported.

Rinkevics emphasized that China’s involvement in global processes presents both opportunities and challenges, stating that China is a European partner and a competitor at the same time.

No matter how dramatic last year may have been, global efforts, including by the EU, the United States, China and Russia, will be needed to maintain international order and peace this year, he said.

The minister reminded that today marks one year since the approval of Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) government, adding that one of the main point in the government declaration is security, which was not randomly chosen. The goal of Latvia’s foreign policy is consistent – to promote stability, security and predictability.

The politician stressed that the US is and will be a strategic partner of Latvia on political, economic and security issues. “Without the U.S. presence, Latvian and European security is impossible,” the minister concluded, saying that transatlantic cooperation with other countries, including Canada, would be strengthened.

Rinkevics noted that Latvia is strongly in favor of adherence to international principles. “We are in favor of comprehensive cooperation in the Nordic-Baltic region. We support the enlargement of both the EU and NATO if all the criteria are met. We are also ready to cooperate with countries with which we have significant disagreements,” the minister said.

He also stated that Latvia’s active participation in international organizations is one of the tools to strengthen sovereignty, the rule of law, security and economic growth, and that the United States and other allies provide invaluable support for Latvia’s defense. “Since the restoration of Latvia’s independence, the involvement of the United States in strengthening security in the region has never been more felt than it is now. We are thankful for that,” the politician said.

“There is no doubt that after Brexit we will have to go through a political and economic transformation. It is essential for our country to forge closer ties with Britain, including in regards to Latvian citizens working in that country. After Brexit, the EU will not become a historical artifact, no matter what some might say. We will have to work hard for the future of Europe. In our discussions we will have to bear in mind that Europe will not be built immediately, but will be shaped by specific achievements,” the minister said.

The politician reminded that Latvia has been in the EU for more than 15 years. In his view, the moment has come when Latvia has become sufficiently capable not only to follow EU policies, but also to be help create them. “Latvia is a leader in several areas, such as cyber security and the fight against disinformation,” the politician said.

Latvia also supports EU enlargement as it is in line with Latvia’s long-term interests, emphasized the minister, though stressing that the EU has borders and it cannot be endless. “The EU’s enlargement policy must be open to those countries that are ready to meet the criteria,” he said.

“I want to see as soon as possible a day where Latvia will contribute more to the EU budget than it receives, but now it is our task to achieve a favorable multi-annual budget, which will certainly be influenced by Brexit. It is clear that Latvia will receive more it contributes. In the process of changing the structure of the EU budget, Latvia’s perception of attracting financing should also change. Latvia needs to develop its ability to raise funds from other EU budget programs as well,” said Rinkevics.

He stressed the need to be more creative and proactive in attracting EU funding by being able to create projects with high added value. Latvia has a lot of creative people and great ideas, as well as a lot of great startups, the politician explained, adding that Latvia could become a leader in 5G.

An intolerant attitude towards money laundering is also important and sufficient efforts should be made to detect and stop such cash flows as much as possible, he added.

“Our experience so far and the turmoil in the financial sector in 2018 point to one important lesson. If we are to be seen as a mature country, then we must behave not as a teenager who cleans up his room only when his parents ask for a third time, but as an adult, which realizes that no one else will clean the house for him,” the minister stressed.

Rinkevics also addressed the diaspora, emphasizing that professionals from different parts of the world are already helping to identify partners for Latvian entrepreneurs.

Latvia maintains a two-way policy with Russia, the minister explained. “We cannot ignore the concentration of Russian military forces in Kaliningrad, which is a strong demonstration of Russian power,” said Rinkevics.

“We pay our respects to the millions of victims who died during World War II. This year will mark the 75th anniversary of World War II. We understand that there would have been no independent Latvia in Hitler’s Third Reich. At the same time, we condemn the attempts by Russia to justify the crimes committed by Stalin,” the minister stressed.

Coordinated action by the Baltic States, Poland and other countries in communicating history is important. “As long as Russia continues to rewrite history and justify totalitarian regimes, a shared security space is not possible,” the politician said.

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